03 September 2010

Question of the Week:
What is Marriage?

by Anne Lang Bundy

In God's eyes, what is marriage? What is divorce?

~ Jodi, Michigan

The short answer I'd offer is that marriage is God making two people one flesh and divorce is humans ripping flesh apart:

[Jesus] said to them, "... 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' ... they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Matthew 19:4-6 (NKJV)

Marriage is the lifelong covenant relationship between a man and woman, instituted by God for our temporal time on earth, officially established by formal vows made before witnesses. Among the purposes of marriage are:

• Supportive human companionship (Genesis 2:18)
• Procreation of godly offspring (Genesis 1:28)
• To clarify God's relationship with His people (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Marriage is the most significant human relationship, but it is only a model of a bigger, spiritual relationship between God and His people. We are to love the Lord and be united to Him physically (yielding our bodies to His Holy Spirit), in mind (conforming our way of thinking to His), in heart (loving who and what He loves), and in soul (our identity is attached to Jesus Christ).

"The goal in marriage is not to think alike,
but to think together."
~ Robert Anderson

"One flesh" signifies that two people are joined not just physically, but also by thinking together from different perspectives, by sharing desires and aspirations, and uniting their identities as part of each other.

Through His relationship with us, God also indicates how we respond to an imperfect spouse. God loves us despite our neglect, shortcomings, misplaced priorities, and indifference. He asks us to do the same.

The Old Testament permitted a man to divorce his wife for sexual "uncleanness" (or "shamefulness"), though the Jews came to divorce for other kinds of disfavor. Jesus made clear that while Moses permitted divorce because of hardened hearts, only sexuality immorality provided legitimate grounds for divorce. Paul went on to explain that a Christian shouldn't divorce an unbelieving spouse, but was released from the marriage only if the unbelieving spouse abandons the Christian.

God calls divorce "violence." Its effect upon our souls is no less than if we ripped an arm off a person, separating flesh from flesh. An arm would only be amputated when it contains disease which has already separated it from life in the body.

It might be said that when all other means of recovery have failed to restore the member diseased with sexual immorality or abandonment, divorce cuts off what is already dead. To use divorce for lesser reason is to commit unnecessary violence to ourselves and to the model of God's enduring covenant.

A final note: The sanctity of the marriage covenant never demands self-sacrifice which allows oppressive abuse. Jesus says, "... learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' "

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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  1. Thank you for reminding us that divorce is a form of violence. It hurts so many people, most of all children, and does not solve root problems. Secular studies show that people are rarely happier five years after a divorce than they were before the divorce.

  2. Timely post. Our anniversary is on Monday. Eleven years. Work & Blessings.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Wendy ~

    I'm blessed to hear this! And also by the other things you've shared about your husband when we've talked. In celebrating your anniversary, may the Lord unite you more closely—in heart and mind, in soul and body. : )

  4. Russ ~

    If I'm not mistaken, I've heard that the divorce statistics for second marriages are higher than for first marriages.

    I'm thoroughly convinced that the violence of divorce not only inflicts critical wounds on everyone involved, but that the cost to two people for repairing the marriage (however high) is less than the cost of divorce.

    The first cost, of course, is always to pride. But if the costs are not incurred—if the root problems are not fixed—they'll simply produce the same weeds in future relationships, and those weeds will be even more noxious now that divorce has been established as a viable option.

  5. Okay, too funny. I just figured out my anniversary is Sunday and not Monday. I really need to get some more sleep. :D

    Sending you love,

  6. Thanks for this great post sis.

  7. Anne, your last point here... I've never heard that in this context before. Wow. "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice."

  8. Kelly ~

    I was praying about this post, and asking the Lord what Scripture might best illustrate that last point. This is the one which came to mind, which shaped the sentence around it. I can't allow myself to think long on the many situations I've witnessed where clergy or counselor has told a spouse or ex-spouse that more sacrifice is needed from them. Such thoughts are bad for blood pressure and graceful speech.

  9. I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You ~Ron